Barreling Toward Christmas
Family For Christmas

The Ruby Anniversary

Forty years. The ruby anniversary.

When I did the math today, as I must do every year, it came as a little bit of a shock. But there it is: forty years ago tonight I was gang raped. (Yes, I've written about it several times. So be it.)

It feels strange to think it was so long ago, because I can bring that night up so clearly in my mind.

It was cold. A friend of mine called me and cajoled me into going to the movies with him that night; we went to see Greta Garbo in Camille.

When I got back to my dorm, all of the parking spaces in front of the building were taken, so I parked in my regular lot. I was wearing jeans, a parka, my favorite Frye boots. I slung my purse on my shoulder and stuck my hands in my pockets and walked toward my dorm.

I heard footsteps behind me. I felt my shoulder being grabbed. I saw the gun.

I asked, "Are you going to rape me?"

The one with the gun said, "Are you going to give it?"

I said, "No."

They took my keys. I had to crouch on the floor of the back seat of my car. I tried to remember turns, look out the window to try to see where we were going, but I couldn't. I stared at the one in the back seat with me -- the one with the gun -- because somehow I knew I had to memorize his face. When I got scared of being obvious, I stared at the driver. Finally they put a jacket over my head. They didn't take it off until they were done raping me, the four of them, in a dingy bedroom of a ground-floor apartment.

I smelled the joint they smoked. My joint, which they stole from my purse, along with the antique silver dollar my Pop gave me.

And then they drove me again, in the back seat of my car. And they raped me again, in the parking lot of a discount store, before they left me in the car on a bridge. I was surprised, at a loss; I had been prepared to die, and I was alive -- alone, in the cold, in the dark, on a bridge. Had they not thrown my car keys away, I would have driven myself back to my dorm and tried to forget about it.

But they threw the keys away, and I had to get help, and I had to talk to the police, who helped me. They took me to the hospital. They called my parents, who came immediately, in the early early hours of that cold morning. They drove me around to see if I could remember, but I couldn't. At the police station, I wrote a long statement, drawing on the details that I made myself remember, while my parents waited to take me home.

And when I left, I saw the sun rise, a beautiful, spectacular sunrise, on the first day of winter, forty years ago.